One comment on “Editions War Part Two: 1e AD&D

  1. I have to disagree with you. I use Gygax AD&D rules to run my D&D game. I played AD&D in 1982-1987, then gave away all my gaming materials after college. Dumb. I know. In 2003 I started DMing again and got all of the AD&D, OD&D and BECM D&D rule materials up to Second edition (Complete Books Of). Core books cost me pennies on the dollar. Easily available.

    I am not a fan of Gygax as a human being, or of how he wrested something from the game scene and monetized it for himself, or his lack of foresight, or his megalomania, BUT his version of the game is the most comprehensive one, and one of the factors when I picked AD&D 1st as my base is that when you read Gygax Core books (PH & DMG), his philosophy and a vision for the game and for history becomes apparent.

    Inherent in D&D worldview is the racism of the colonial mindset that D&D inherited when it syncretized and amalgamated the world of JRR Tolkien and of the fantasy pulp writing that was the product of its time when it was written in the 20’s and the 30’s. The Herrenvolk and Untermenschen of the Nazi racist ideology have found themselves in D&D as the Demi-Human and Humanoid races. Proverbial Elves and Orcs. Most gamers are unaware of this, are not themselves racist, and you miss the forest for the trees when you look for non-European faces in the illustrations as a sign of lack of diversity and overlook the rest of the baggage. This was corrected in later editions, where players can play Goblins etc. and it’s up the DM to elevate them to the level of Humanity. Because of all that baggage, I thought of running a Humans only campaign, but then decided on a world that has multiple intelligent bipedal species competing with humanity with parallel evolutions evolving alien intellects in conjunction with other factors.

    Gygax DMG has two capabilities that all of the subsequent editions of AD&D Lack. One is a system of appendices, that allow a DM to create their own Dungeon adventures. With Gygax, you can roll your own. The second thing is that Gygax has codified the world of fantasy pulp fiction (Appendix M) into one convenient Tome, DMG, and using these compiled tables, Gygax has created an algorithm for generating stories set in that world, presented as “Dungeon” adventures. There is a brief Wilderness design section in DMG, but it is inadequate. Tom Moldway has a better algorithm for writing dungeon adventures in his Section 8 of the Red Book, but lacks the detail of the DMG. In the Blue Book he introduces a Wilderness Design System, that is more detailed, but not as coherent. DMG introduces the Hex-Crawl system. Wilderness Survival Guide does nothing to add to the writing on wilderness design, and there is a good reason why all of the writing on wilderness adventure design sucks. Anyway, Dungeoneer Survival Guide has some of the most advanced writing on D&D adventure design, introducing plot development and parallel plots etc. Gygax’s Oriental Adventure has soliod Gygax writing, where he shows you hot to run a sandbox campaign potentially without Dungeon adventures. You have to have imagination and write your own setting, but the knowledge is there. Compare Gygax to the hacks who were hired on the to write D&D after Gygax departure. Just look at the entire series of munchkin (gamer obsessed with empowering its player character) supplements, called the Complete Book Of, where you can find all sorts of the aspects of life in the 1990’s written into the game. Gygax had vision that these hacks didn’t.

    When Gygax wrote the game in the 1970’s, it was played by “wargamers”, which meant white, male, grad school types studying natural science, who had interest in military history and were Tolkien fans, who may or may not have been aware of colonialism in his writing, to the others outside the scene it was open knowledge and the reason that LOTR was not taken as serious literature. Whatever his shortcomings, Gygax was writing at their intellectual level. After Gygax left, first TSR tried making D&D everything to everyone in the Second Edition, and I’ve seen some truly original non-D&D campaigns that worked using the Second Ed rules. Then WOTC took the game and made it all things to all people with players wielding superhero-like abilities and illustrations appearing comic book -like. The reading level of the fame dropped to that of a 12 year old with a short attention span. The game became tied to miniatures and the frame of reference in most games became a single room as opposed to an entire labyrinth or the adventure itself. Different editions, different games, with the current D&D game being a pencil and paper version of the Diablo videogame.

    Why I picked Gygax AD&D? Because of its fantasy infrastructure: hundreds of its spells, treasures, magical items, monsters and weapons. AD&D has more complex game stats that versiosn that followed it (Weapon vs Armor tables). I wanted tactical realism where player tactical decisions had real consequences, and Gygax AD&D combat rules provided the best framework. OD&D had nothing in it, why bother with it, I can just make my own from scratch, and Basic etc, combat rules were too simple and made combat linear. By making it non-linear, I made it terrifying and dangerous to players, to a point where they stress. I never use any commercially available settings, because it is lackluster and players are familiar with it. I always do homegrown.

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